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3rd surgery in 6 months...am I crazy to consider it?

Started by hal123 on 05/21/2010 9:30pm

I am only 30 years old, and have been having severe sciatica pain for about 3 years. I went to a specialist when I started having trouble walking, and getting out of bed in the morning. I would get up, and my leg would completely give out on me, and I would end up falling on the floor.

The specialist stated that my L5 was herniated, and that my S1 was being pinched which was causing all of my pain. He recommended surgery since no chiro, physical therapy, or even epideral injections were working. I had a minimally invasive spinal fusion with hardware back in November. I went back to work being a server after 5 weeks with a 25 pound weight limit. However; after about 2 or 3 weeks I started realizing I was having leg pain again and it was getting worse as time went on.

I finally convinced my surgeon something was not right after my 1st surgery, and he ordered some test. He told me that my nerve was still being compressed because I "overfused" and that I grew too much bone which was once again compressing my nerves. He also stated that my hardware was not holding up because of how active I was. He wanted to put in more hardware that was stronger, and also do a decompression surgery to remove the extra bone growth around my nerves.

I had the 2nd surgery exactly 4 months after my first surgery. I woke up in severe pain, and my right leg was numb in the back of my leg and also the inside of my thigh. I was numb from the waist down to my toes. My doctor said the nerve was just inflamed and irritated, and that it would go away. However; it still has not. Also I told him my nerve was still being pinched, but he said I just needed to give it time.

It has been 9 weeks since my 2nd surgery, and I just found out yesterday he wants to do yet ANOTHER surgery. My nerve is now supposedly being compressed by scar tissue which was found when I was trying to get epiderals for the pain. Also another MRI shows that my L4 is now herniated as well. So now he wants to do another decompression surgery to free up my nerve, and also fix the L4 herniated disc as well.

He told me it is either another surgery, a spinal cord stimulator, or live with this extreme pain for the rest of my life. However; he is not recommending the spinal cord stimulator because of my age. He said that I am too young to get one already, and if I go that route I would have to have many implanted because they only last so long anyway.

I am honestly completely at a loss. I am worried that if I have this much scar tissue after only 9 weeks, does this mean it is going to be there again in another 2 months? Also it is too early to remove the hardware because the fusion has not completely healed, so does this mean I will have to having another surgery later to remove it to create more room so my nerves are not being pinched anymore? Also if 2 surgeries were not successful already, whats the chance of the 3rd working?

I guess I am just asking anyone what they think, and if anyone has had this issue too? I have an extremely physical job, and I obviously can't afford another surgery, but I can't live with this pain very much longer. I am already at my wits end, and I feel hopeless. I am worried about taking so much pain medicine, but I am also worried that I am going to have to live with the pain the rest of my life.

I AM DESPERATE!!!!! Please help if you have any suggestions or at least tell me what you think. I guess I know everyone on here knows at least what it is like to live with such horrible pain, and what they would do if they were in my shoes. Thank you so much in advance!!!!!!! I really appreciate any help I can get.

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Hello,
I registered here just to respond. I am so sorry that you are having such pain at a young age. I certainly think you should get a second opinion. I had an anterior discectiomy (disc replacement in the neck at C3-C4 with hardware) ten weeks ago and my surgeon told me that it takes a good 12 weeks before he can tell if the surgery is a complete success. This is why I feel that you have had two surgeries in such a short time. I was also told not to carry anything over ten pounds. I am older and have diabetes so one could probably expect a longer healing time however,It concerns me that the surgeon said that your graft "overgrew" and yet he wanted to put stronger hardware in there. It is my understanding that the doctors hope that the new disc replacement grows and bonds with the plate and screws. Did you look at the post op xrays yourself? Did he offer to show you?
I would certainly get a second and third opinion before more surgery because you only have one spine and 3 surgeries so close together seems to be a scary thought I am sure.

As far as the neuro=stimulator is concerned there are new stims that are wireless and matchstick sized that are far less invasive now that I would recommend you research. Too many surgeons are not keeping up with technology and are still offering the old wired stim like from Medtronics.

I would still consider a neuro implant to give you some pain relief even in the short term (meaning a year or so) to give your spine a break and to heal a bit longer before you have more vertebre replaced which again would weaken the spine for a short time.
I am sorry you have scar tissue already. I was told by two surgeons that scar tissue can not be cut out as it's return rate in the same spot is like 80%.
I was told by my surgeon that the failure rate for disc replacement over ten years is 25 %, this includes pressure from the disc replacement causing the next disc to rupture.
So getting back to your surgeries it seems like your spine did need more time to recover and maybe you did too much and unfortuneately some people just grow lots of scar tissue with any surgery. I am no doctor but am planning to get one of the micro neurostimulators for a neurological problem with my skull which causes 24/7 migraines. I have researched for six months, knowing I needed to stabilize my spine first which I have just done with my anterior discectomy. The matchstick sized stim is such a step up from the old stim and minimally invasive that just for this fact it will cause less scar tissue (which is a problem for some) than the older versions.
So get another opinion, get a stim so you can let your spine heal... think of taking meds like the anti seizure meds that are great for nerve pain like neurontin in the mean time. This doctor seems to be in a rush and talks in absolutes for me like being in pain the rest of your life... well technology is advancing way too fast for any doctor to say this IMO.
Oh another thing I researched is the disc replacement they do wich the ball and socket type procedure. I was too old at 50+ and I was told it was a great new technology but for younger people with more solid bones. The ball and socket type procedure evidently prevents the discs either side of the replacement to rupture through pressure.
Also in the mean time you could use a TENS unit its a stim but not implanted .. they qre cheap and I have used one for 20 years for a crushed sciatic nerve in my buttock ... it works by creating a circuit around the damaged nerve preventing the pain message to the brain and offering relief to the surrounding muscles. This would probably work very well while you decide what to do.
Chloe

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Thank you so much for your advice I am nervous about having so many procedures within such a short amount of time, and I think that you are right my spine needs time to heal. I am trying to get another opinion but it was hard since every doctor wanted to wait at least 9 months after a fusion to make sure everything healed. I am finally going in to another specialist in 3 weeks to see what they have to say.

I have not heard about the new procedure with the ball, I will have to do some research on it. I do have a tens unit and it helped me get through until my 2nd surgery. However; it seems to bring little relief this time around. I tried neurotin, but that did little with the pain as well. My pain doc just prescribed me Lyrica so I am going to try that now, and I guess it is suppose to let me sleep FINALLY!! :) I will be one happy camper if I could get a good night's sleep!

I am really sorry to hear that you have chronic migraines, and I hope the new stim works for you. I think that I am in enough pain now to consider getting one myself, it just worries me that I will have to get it replaced in the long run anyway. I guess they have only a certain amount of time that they are good for? Obviously I need to do further research on that as well....

I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for the new information. I am hoping this site provides me with education so I can hopefully once and for all get rid of all of this pain.

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Thank you so much for your advice I am nervous about having so many procedures within such a short amount of time, and I think that you are right my spine needs time to heal. I am trying to get another opinion but it was hard since every doctor wanted to wait at least 9 months after a fusion to make sure everything healed. I am finally going in to another specialist in 3 weeks to see what they have to say.

I have not heard about the new procedure with the ball, I will have to do some research on it. I do have a tens unit and it helped me get through until my 2nd surgery. However; it seems to bring little relief this time around. I tried neurotin, but that did little with the pain as well. My pain doc just prescribed me Lyrica so I am going to try that now, and I guess it is suppose to let me sleep FINALLY!! :) I will be one happy camper if I could get a good night's sleep!

I am really sorry to hear that you have chronic migraines, and I hope the new stim works for you. I think that I am in enough pain now to consider getting one myself, it just worries me that I will have to get it replaced in the long run anyway. I guess they have only a certain amount of time that they are good for? Obviously I need to do further research on that as well....

I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for the new information. I am hoping this site provides me with education so I can hopefully once and for all get rid of all of this pain.

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Dear hal123,
I'm suffering as well I thought I would share with you a new to me. Treatment for back pain it is described thourghly in detail atwww.painbreathrough.com this is not a spam post this is my honest opinion of what my next move is going to be. I hope this can offer you some help.
Please excuse my post to those at spineuniverse.com if it breaks the web sites rules for posting.
I hope they to can start an article on this treatment.
Thanks

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5 weeks was way too soon to of been heading back to work. My surgeon knows my job is physical and won't even medically release me until 4 months post op. I can go back to work the 22nd of this month. There shouldn't be any bending, lifting, or twisting for the first 3 months. I hope you get feeling better.

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The good thing about discussion boards like this is it allows you to gain perspective. I am 55 and have a post on the board about 3 surgeries in 4 years and I thought I had it bad! Seriously, Chloe gave you some good advice- step by step. Every spine is different so it is hard to generalize but my advice is to take it as slow as you can even if it means some meds for awhile. I am in the midst of comparing fusion surgery or spinal stimulator or more meds and it is not fool proof. Don't know if you ever had time between the surgeries for PT but I found that was helpful . Anyway, best of luck and let us know how you progress. James

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Just an update!!!

It has been a crazy time lately! I found out that my old surgeon was not trustworthy and that I was not in good hands :(

I now have to have surgery to fix everything that he did. I am finally having my 3rd surgery next week with YES a new doctor!!!!!!!!!!!! I am relieved that I finally was able to get another opinion, and I hope the first doctor gets his license removed from him because he does not deserve to operate on anyone.

I now have to get a 2 level fusion with more instrumentation again. they are going to remove all the hardware that the other doc put in, and just redo everything. I am really scared though because this in not a minimally invasive procedure, and the other 2 were. Also they are cutting me in the front on my stomach and on my back. That really makes me nervous too. I already have 8 incisions on my back, now I am going to have two more.

If anyone has gone through this procedure...Please feel free to give me advice!!! I am getting really nervous!! I have exactly 1 week from today until my operation.

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Indeed your first surgeon was not thinking of your best interest!! The whole overfusion thing less than four months out was the first thing that was GLARING!! Fusion can take 6-12 months if not longer before you can have any definitive data. So my thoughts are he might not have decompressed very well the first time if at all. There were more things that stood out but onto what you are probably having done or just had done. It's a 360 fusion or flipper. You must have some pretty bad discs, a spondylolisthesis (Slipped Vertebrae) or some Scoliosis...they will go in through the front and access the anterior portion of your spine and remove the disc and replace with some sort of spacer with bone graft inside and probably put a plate over top unless it is a stand alone cage. Then they will flip you over and remove the previous hardware and do some decompression and free up your nerves and clean up whatever mess was made and reinstrument and bone graft in your lateral gutters. Usually it's at least 3 months before you can go back to work with this surgery. Hope all goes well and you finally see some relief. Keep us updated.

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